Increasing its growing stranglehold on the media, and ignoring the concerns of the European Union, a court in Turkey has indicted 38 people, including two journalists from the financial news agency Bloomberg.
The reporters are charged with trying to undermine Turkey’s economic stability following August 2018 reports on a steep decline in the value of the Turkish lira, describing worries that a currency debacle could undermine the economy, with retail banks were having trouble coping.
Acting on a lawsuit filed by Turkey’s banking regulator, prosecutors said the articles were an attempt to destabilize the country’s banks. Critics said it was an attempt to deflect attention from genuine economic problems and part of a concerted effort by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to muzzling the press and silence dissidents.
The defendants who have been charged, who include economists, are accused of disseminating fake news and causing chaos in financial markets. They face up to five years in prison.
Bloomberg News Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait condemned the indictments of reporters Kerim Karakaya and Fercan Yalinkilic, who he said “have reported fairly and accurately on newsworthy events. We fully stand by them and will support them throughout this ordeal.”
“It is an attempt to gag dissent,” Durmus Yilmaz, a lawmaker with the opposition Good Party, and a former Governor of the Turkish central bank told The Wall Street Journal. “The thing that harms the economy is not the criticism, but mismanaging it.”
The Turkish lira took a beating in the summer of 2018 when investor concerns over Turkey’s ability to withstand rising borrowing costs coincided with a period of friction with the United States.
President Erdogan’s crackdown on the media has accelerated in the wake of a failed coup attempt against him in July 2016. Since then, some 231 journalists have been arrested in Turkey, according to the to Sweden-based advocacy group Stockholm Center for Freedom, and 122 were jailed in 2018.
In November, a Turkish court threw out the a conviction against a former Wall Street Journal reporter, Ayla Albayrak, annulling a widely criticized guilty verdict and a sentence of 25-month prison sentence for an article she wrote in 2015. Prosecutors are appealing the verdict.
The case of the Bloomberg journalists will be heard on 20 September.